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Modelling prehistoric topography and vegetation in the lower Thames Valley, UK: Palaeoenvironmental context for wetland archaeology and evidence for Neolithic Landnám from north Woolwich

Modelling prehistoric topography and vegetation in the lower Thames Valley, UK: Palaeoenvironmental context for wetland archaeology and evidence for Neolithic Landnám from north Woolwich
Modelling prehistoric topography and vegetation in the lower Thames Valley, UK: Palaeoenvironmental context for wetland archaeology and evidence for Neolithic Landnám from north Woolwich

Multi-proxy investigations at 2 Pier Road, North Woolwich, London, UK, have revealed deposits spanning the Middle-Late Holocene from the late Mesolithic (c. 4360 cal BC) onwards. Pollen data show an Elm Decline at c. 4210–3950 cal BC followed by landnám clearances at c. 4210–3910 cal BC and c. 3710–3030 cal BC and the first appearance of cereal at c. 3540–3030 cal BC. These events are potentially contemporary with the construction of nearby Neolithic trackways, providing indirect evidence for agriculture and settlement. REVEALS modelling shows the first significant reduction in woodland cover is coincident with the Neolithic Elm decline, but the main step-change to open conditions occurred in the Early Bronze Age, following a decline in lime at c. 2110–1630 cal BC. Palaeo-topographic modelling of the region shows that although the trend towards increasing openness coincides with gradual wetland expansion, the shift to open vegetation cover cannot be explained by this and is probably the result of human activity. This study highlights the value of combining deposit and vegetation cover modelling to contextualise wetland archaeology and shows that together these provide useful proxies for landscape-scale human activity that can identify ephemeral signals of prehistoric activity.

Elm decline, London, deposit modelling, landnám, trackways, vegetation cover
1461-4103
1-17
Stastney, Phil
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Scaife, Rob
b258b25f-818e-4f20-aad8-bc17e170e6b5
Carretero, Lara Gonzalez
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Whittaker, John E.
9bcd8d62-8c95-4823-9de5-f781afa7a0ed
Cameron, Nigel
f4db6d1a-09af-4ce1-bc65-e4e7872936d2
Allison, Enid
e61dbdc1-119c-4e2d-98ae-0ee28925328f
Stastney, Phil
8f222b3a-ff3c-45f4-89a2-ba1a0980f0a0
Scaife, Rob
b258b25f-818e-4f20-aad8-bc17e170e6b5
Carretero, Lara Gonzalez
90f901f2-8674-4431-a1ad-d4090e7dcd60
Whittaker, John E.
9bcd8d62-8c95-4823-9de5-f781afa7a0ed
Cameron, Nigel
f4db6d1a-09af-4ce1-bc65-e4e7872936d2
Allison, Enid
e61dbdc1-119c-4e2d-98ae-0ee28925328f

Stastney, Phil, Scaife, Rob, Carretero, Lara Gonzalez, Whittaker, John E., Cameron, Nigel and Allison, Enid (2021) Modelling prehistoric topography and vegetation in the lower Thames Valley, UK: Palaeoenvironmental context for wetland archaeology and evidence for Neolithic Landnám from north Woolwich. Environmental Archaeology, 1-17. (doi:10.1080/14614103.2021.1880683).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Multi-proxy investigations at 2 Pier Road, North Woolwich, London, UK, have revealed deposits spanning the Middle-Late Holocene from the late Mesolithic (c. 4360 cal BC) onwards. Pollen data show an Elm Decline at c. 4210–3950 cal BC followed by landnám clearances at c. 4210–3910 cal BC and c. 3710–3030 cal BC and the first appearance of cereal at c. 3540–3030 cal BC. These events are potentially contemporary with the construction of nearby Neolithic trackways, providing indirect evidence for agriculture and settlement. REVEALS modelling shows the first significant reduction in woodland cover is coincident with the Neolithic Elm decline, but the main step-change to open conditions occurred in the Early Bronze Age, following a decline in lime at c. 2110–1630 cal BC. Palaeo-topographic modelling of the region shows that although the trend towards increasing openness coincides with gradual wetland expansion, the shift to open vegetation cover cannot be explained by this and is probably the result of human activity. This study highlights the value of combining deposit and vegetation cover modelling to contextualise wetland archaeology and shows that together these provide useful proxies for landscape-scale human activity that can identify ephemeral signals of prehistoric activity.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 18 January 2021
e-pub ahead of print date: 11 February 2021
Keywords: Elm decline, London, deposit modelling, landnám, trackways, vegetation cover

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 448446
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/448446
ISSN: 1461-4103
PURE UUID: e28f0365-2381-45ee-af17-ff866817800a

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 22 Apr 2021 16:46
Last modified: 25 Nov 2021 23:10

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Contributors

Author: Phil Stastney
Author: Rob Scaife
Author: Lara Gonzalez Carretero
Author: John E. Whittaker
Author: Nigel Cameron
Author: Enid Allison

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